Bahama Islands and Channels

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Bahama Islands and Channels

4,500.00

Measurements: (not including margins): 62 x 38.5 in. ( 157.48 x 97.79 cm.)

Date: 1870

Condition: Blueback sea chart. Some loose vertical folds flattened, one (that intersecting Key West) with a few neatly repaired small holes barely affecting the image. A small abrasion southeast of Great Exuma Island in the Bahamas.

Description:

A Superb Antique Sea Chart of the Bahamas and South Florida.

Richly detailed, rare blueback sea chart covering the Bahamas, northern Cuba, South Florida, and the Florida Keys.  Imray's chart is unusual for its significant focus on the Bahamas in its inset maps, with very large plans of Nassau and New Providence.

The map is rich in bathymetric data, particularly in the soundings in the three insets of the Florida Keys.

Insets

From the top, clockwise, the map includes the following insets:

  • Anchorages at the West Side of Crooked Id.

  • New Providence &c.

  • Anchorage on the S.W. Side of Acklin Island

  • Nassau

  • Puerto de Las Nuevitas.

  • Sketch of Cardenas [Unsurveyed]

  • Havana

  • Tortugas Cay

  • Sketch of Matanzas [Unsurveyed]

  • Cay West

  • North-East Part of Florida Reef

Location of publication: London

Cartographer: James Imray & Son

Contemporary academic references cited relating to this map and rarity:

The present blueback is rare; we find no other copies in RBH, OldMaps, nor OCLC.

From the late 18th century until midway through the 19th, navigators on the high seas relied on what became known as “blueback” charts, which were privately published large-format nautical charts backed by strong, blue-colored paper that stiffened the charts' resistance to the volatile conditions encountered on long, arduous sea voyages. These separately-issued, single-sheet charts — unlike the large-scale ones published by the British Admiralty's Hydrographic Office for use by the Royal Navy — were small-scale, geographically expansive charts with numerous insets of ports and anchorages, enabling merchant mariners to use fewer charts within their cramped quarters aboard ship, thus dispensing with the need for unwieldy foldouts and sea atlases. Though the early blueback charts were drawn primarily from reports submitted by mariners, and the government charts had the near-exclusive capacity to access information from prohibitively expensive surveys, many captains in the Royal Navy nevertheless preferred the utility and efficacy of the private charts. Additionally, before governments took on maritime mapping, it fell upon these continually updated commercial maps to in large measure provide an early cartographic record of European discovery.

The origin of blueback charts dates to 1760, when the first such chart was issued by Mount and Page, a British maritime publishing firm of worldwide renown that was founded in 1701 by Richard Mount (1654-1722) and Thomas Page (d.1733). Another early blueback chart was published in 1787 by Robert Sayer (1725-1794), a leading British publisher of maps and prints. By the early 19th century a small group of chartmakers and instrument-makers in London — many of them family-based businesses — attained primacy over the rising international market for blueback charts. The creators of these charts were among the era’s most well-respected cartographers, and included James Imray (1803-1870), John William Norie (1772-1843; whose fame was such that Charles Dickens, Jack London, and C.S. Forester refer to him in literary works), William Heather (1765-1812; Norie’s mentor), and R.H. Laurie (1777-1858). American sea captains making trans-oceanic voyages also employed British blueback charts, in addition to utilizing blueback charts produced by two of America's finest maritime mapmakers of the period, both of whom passed their businesses to succeeding generations: Edmund March Blunt (1770-1862), author of the seminal American Coastal Pilot; and George Eldridge (1821-1900), whose early charts are among the most exceptionably rare maritime collectibles.

Producing its first chart in 1800, the British Admiralty’s Hydrographic Office would not make its surplus charts available to the general public until 1821. It would take many decades beginning with the Hydrographic Office’s inception in 1795 before the Admiralty could produce a sufficient number of charts to meet the needs of the ever-growing Royal Navy. But by 1840, when the Admiralty charts first entered the market in large numbers, new surveying techniques and the development of precise maritime instruments — together with competitive pricing — allowed the highly accurate Admiralty charts to make serious and growing inroads in the crowded marketplace. Moreover, as steam gradually superseded sail and ships could navigate closer inshore, mariners sought the added benefit of the larger scale, minutely detailed coastal charts produced by the Admiralty, whose charts were officially declared as the safer option by the British Board of Trade in 1850. By the late 19th century the descendents of the original blueback chartmakers were forced to consolidate in order to survive, eventually taking the name Imray, Norie, Laurie and Wilson Ltd., a firm whose historical antecedents have helped it to exist to the present day, providing smaller vessels such as yachts and fishing boats with both traditional and digital navigation aids.

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